The Florida Civil Rights Association announced Tuesday that it is representing a dismissed juror who was barred from the Seminole County Courthouse until after the George Zimmerman trial concludes.
The association says Jerry Counelis, former prospective juror E-7, claims his civil rights were violated during jury selection and alleges that he was defamed by Zimmerman’s attorney Mark O’Mara.
Counelis told attorneys during questioning last week in Zimmerman’s second-degree murder trial that he had no opinion about whether Zimmerman was guilty of killing unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford last year.
But after Counelis admitted to Seminole Circuit Judge Debra S. Nelson that he had written a Facebook post — which news reports said was critical of how Sanford policehandled the investigation into Trayvon’s death — a deputy escorted him from the courtroom.
Later Friday, O’Mara told the media that people who try to join a jury with preconceived notions about a defendant’s guilt or innocence are “unbelievably dangerous” to the criminal-justice system.
Florida Civil Rights Association President J. Willie David suggested that O’Mara apologize. He also claimed that Counelis was unfairly banned from the courthouse Friday.
After being removed from the courtroom, Counelis complained at the courthouse about the way he was treated during jury selection, according to a sheriff’s trespass-warning report.
In March, The Huffington Post began talking to teens and adults throughout the U.S. about their experiences with gun violence. This is one individual’s story. You can read others here.
Twenty-year-old Benecia resident Deshawn Deandre Morris was fatally shot on June 7, 2012. Seventh-grader Sophiyah McGriff, Deshawn’s younger sister, reflects on her brother’s death:
Deshawn was a good person. He was my favorite brother. It was hard for me when it happened because he was the closest to me [of any of my three siblings]. We had a lot of things in common; we were really close.
He was always protective. Like if something happened, he would go talk to that person. He encouraged me … One time this girl called me a name and I called him and he came down and started talking to her and said, “If you mess with my sister again … well, you better not mess with my little sister again.” He protects me … he was like my role model.
When we were younger, we made up this thing it was called a “kiss kiss” and it would be a double kiss. When we gave each other a kiss that would be my favorite memory. It was kind of a secret.
He got shot in the neck on June 7, 2012. His funeral was on my birthday. He graduated on that day, too. The inside of me just ended. I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without Deshawn. It’s hard. I still feel the same way as when it happened.
[On the night he died] I went to my friend’s house … our neighbor, at like 10 at night, came to my friend’s door and said, “Sophiyah, if you need anything just come to my door. Your mom had to go somewhere.” In the morning I went home and my Mom told me what happened … I started crying. I went to a birthday party that day and I just wanted to get away because it was too sad. I just went to the park by my friend’s birthday and just stayed there … I couldn’t even be in the house.
The funeral was horrible. He was in this casket and, whenever I would look up, it was just him, but he wasn’t breathing. That was the saddest part. Whenever I looked up I started crying. He was a piece of my world and it’s hard to live my life without him. He’s not going to be at my eighth grade graduation; he’s not going to be at my 16th birthday; he’s not going to be at my wedding. It’s just scary.
This girl texted me and said, “Sophiyah, I know what you’re going through, my brother got killed, too. If you need anyone to talk to, you can just text me.”
I never really thought about guns before Deshawn died, not like how I do now.
I know four people who have been shot. Like my brother’s really good friend Mario. He was killed by the police. They shot him 31 times through the windshield. They shot him until he stopped moving.
Mario was like an older brother to me, he always used to call me “Lil Sis.” When that happened it was horrible. When my mom told me how many times he got shot, I couldn’t even believe it. He was really nice and he was like one of my brothers and he loved me. We were really close, too. He was at Deshawn’s funeral.
As told to Aaron Sankin.
My marriage to hip-hop and its culture starts in 1979. I hear a “Flash Tape” and immediately I want to do whatever it is that makes this sound so good to me. Some call it epiphany, others fate — for me it was hip-hop. There’s a bit of a distance between 1979 and now; yes, things have changed. Most notably, the term hip-hop is now (amazingly) a household word. The rules are different. And yes, mediocrity has reared its ugly head.
Throughout the years I’ve become what is called a “music technologist.” I spend time equally within the music and tech industries. I’m fortunate to have friends and colleagues in both sectors. Without question, this leads me to interesting findings, to say the least. I’m a strong advocate of these two industries learning from each other, and I’ve even managed to organize a business doing such. I work with several software startups and music companies/artists developing products and services. The challenges are plenty, and (I imagine) in a similar fashion that Silicon Valley aficionados say the tech world has changed, I say the same about hip-hop.
Change is not always good, or bad. Change is, and that can sometimes make it difficult to digest. Speaking of change, the entire inception of hip-hop evoked change. I not only remember, but I lived those days. The days of being told we were a passing fad. The days of being scolded that we weren’t “real” music. R&B artists hated us. Pop artists had no idea of who we were. Still with all of the nay-saying (is that a word?) we continued with the determination of a young Larry Ellison. We had a point to prove, and so we charged on. Of all the things we may have been accused of, mediocrity was not on the list. We had no “status quo,” we made one. We rhymed for social good, neighborhood bragging rights, and the progression of our (hip-hop) culture. Our founders (these and more), Afrika Bambaata, Kool Herc, and Grandmaster Flash, laid the ground rules. We never had to “keep it real” because we kept it regular. The music of hip-hop is two turntables and a mic. We are a collage at its finest hour. Borrowing, breaking, and remaking pre-recorded music for MC’s (rappers to you) like myself to say the darndest things.
To provide a short history lesson, making records (CDs to you) was not part of the original plan. In the beginning, we plugged into street lamps as an electricity source for sound systems, and came out every night (summertime, school vacation) with new lyrics to be heard by spectators, party-goers, and rival crews. So to say the same rhyme twice was a no-go. To make a record meant the same rhyme over and over, and that wasn’t “fresh.” Somewhere along the line, the idea was abandoned, but it still took us a long time to learn to make records well. An example is even though the Sugarhill Gang has one of the most memorable rap songs of all time, the first album by the group was composed of rapping and singing. They had no idea an album full of rap lyrics could/would be accepted. Still, we trudged on. By the late ’80s, we figured it out. Chuck D of Public Enemy’s “rap is the CNN of the black community” comment summarized our activity.
From NWA, The Ghetto Boys, The Click, and Kool G Rap, we knew what the inner-city had to say. From Heavy D, Kid N Play, Salt N Pepa, and De La Soul, we knew the emotion of our youth. From Arrested Development, Stetsasonic, Boogie Down Productions, and of course Public Enemy, we knew of injustice, and how we planned to deal with it.
I find it hilarious that when asked what they’d be doing if not rapping, today’s (so-called) rappers often answer “I’d be in the street.” Huh?? It’s difficult to digest that every rapper on the radio today is a former criminal, thug or drug dealer — nonsense. And this is where the mediocrity sets in. I’d never get all my food from one restaurant. I’d never buy all my clothes from one haberdashery. So why would I buy (although a YouTube rip would do fine) hip-hop from one source of artists? There is no political correctness in my rant. Just facts. Without diversity, there is no hip-hop, even if you choose to call it that. Hip-hop is not a reality TV show. Hip-hop is not a pair of pants sagging. Like the startups I deal with daily, hip-hop has founders, innovation, and purpose.
J Cole and Kendrick Lamar make hip-hop records. Kanye (I’m sure he knows how, but) doesn’t. And Maybe LL forgot how. The culture had no voice, so here I am. Open to suggestions and criticism, just know if you’re even a little off I’ll tap that jaw. I miss that we (at least in this country, see my treatise on international hip-hop here) speak for all facets of society and not just one of misogyny, bottle poppin’ and Bugattis. I’ll be speaking more so stay tuned.
“There’s much bigger issues in the world I know, but I had to first take care of the world I know”
You would think that Eric Holder, the first African American Attorney General, and Barack Obama, the first African American President, would be vigilant that there was no racial discrimination in the Justice Department of their Administration. You would think.
The press, the Congress, the courts, and the Administration have all recognized that in the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s, the federal crack cocaine laws were being enforced in a racially disparate manner. For much of this time, two-thirds or more of America’s crack users have been white. Research by sociologists has demonstrated that generally people buy drugs from people the same race that they are. It was a shock in 1995 when Dan Weikel reported for the Los Angeles Times that in the federal courts in a half dozen major cities no white person had ever been prosecuted for selling crack under a harsh law that Congress hastily passed in 1986.
In June 1986, Len Bias, a star of the championship University of Maryland basketball team died. He was snorting cocaine and drinking the night he signed with the NBA champion Boston Celtics, and inked a multi-million dollar endorsement contract for athletic shoes. He had a cocaine-induced seizure and was pronounced dead in a matter of hours.
I was one of Congress’s drug experts. As Congress reacted in July and August, I was the primary committee counsel in the House of Representatives helping the U.S. Congress write the mandatory minimum drug laws over a few days, with no hearings or effective input from anyone else.
As a result of the law that I helped write, the mandatory sentences for selling crack cocaine were triggered by selling much smaller quantities of the drug than for selling powder cocaine. If to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence for 10 years, one had to sell 5 kilos of powder cocaine (5000 grams or about 12 pounds), one would get the same minimum 10 year sentence for selling only 50 grams of crack cocaine (less than twoounces; about the weight of a candy bar).
Note that crack cocaine is easily made from powder cocaine. One simply adds baking soda and water to powder cocaine and heats it on a stove or in a microwave. The very simple chemical reaction converts powder cocaine (cocaine as a salt, cocaine hydrochloride, which is stable, fireproof, water soluble and easily injected) into the base form which when heated is easily vaporized and inhaled, i.e., smoked. Crack is not more dangerous than powder cocaine - inhaling the vapor into the lungs is a much more efficient way to get high than trying to snort the powder into the nose.
Considering that major dealers arrange for shipments of tons of cocaine (one ton equals 1 million grams) every month, 50 grams of cocaine is an insignificant amount. Congress wanted the Justice Department to focus on high-level dealers but made a mistake in choosing this small quantity to be the indicator and I was part of that mistake.
But if Congress had never selected these small quantities, DEA and the leaders of the Justice Department would never have picked 50 grams of crack as the measure of a major trafficker.
What is so baffling is why they continue to go along with it, even after it is clear that the numbers were wrong. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s reports from the U.S. Sentencing Commission pointed to unwarranted disparity in federal cocaine prosecutions. By early 2008, Senators Obama, Biden and Clinton, among others, had cosponsored the Drug Sentencing and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2007 (S. 1711, 110th Congress) to eliminate the lower crack triggers: all cocaine mandatory minimums (powder and crack) would start at 500 and 5000 grams. The Justice Department would be encouraged to prosecute high level traffickers with additional funds, and increased fines that could be obtained from the convicted high level traffickers — fines as high as $75 million. This bill was based on model legislation I drafted in 2005 called the Cocaine Kingpin Punishment Act.
Congress passed a version of the act in 2010, but it only modified the crack quantity triggers slightly — 28 grams replaced 5 grams to trigger a 5 year minimum; 280 grams replaced 50 grams to trigger a 10-year minimum. President Obama signed the law at the White House.
But looking at the latest data, the racial disparity in federal crack cocaine cases is even worse! In FY 2009, Blacks were 79.0 percent of all federal crack cocaine defendants. By FY 2012, that percentage had gone UP to 82.6 percent. In FY 2009, whites were only 9.8 percent of all federal crack cocaine defendants. But FY 2012, that percentage had gone DOWN to 6.7 percent. Under Holder and Obama, the racial disparity has gotten significantly worse.
SANFORD, Fla. — Prosecutors and defense attorneys on Tuesday inched toward their goal of finding a pool of 40 potential jurors who will go through a second round of questioning about issues related to the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by former neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
At the start of the seventh day of jury selection, attorneys had asked 32 potential jurors to return for further questioning. They eventually must narrow the pool to six jurors and four alternates.
The four prospective jurors questioned Tuesday morning expressed no strong opinions about the case. They included a mixed-race man in his 50s, a mixed-race woman in her 20s, a white woman in her 20s and a black man in his 50s.
Zimmerman was driving through the gated community where he lived on the evening of Feb. 26, 2012, when he saw Martin walking back from a convenience store to a home belonging to his father’s fiancee. Zimmerman called a nonemergencypolice number, followed Martin and at some point a fight erupted between them that left Martin dead.
The case is racially charged. A 44-day delay in Zimmerman’s arrest led to protests around the nation. Protesters questioned whether the Sanford Police Department was investigating the case seriously because Martin was a black teen from the Miami area. Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
When asked what his impressions were about the case, the mixed-race man in his 50s said, “You had a family grieving for the loss of their son. You have another family grieving for the potential loss of their loved one to this process. You had supporters on both sides, and some people were very angry.”
Prosecutors and defense attorneys are seeking a pool of 40 potential jurors who have been screened for any influence of pretrial publicity before moving to a second round of questioning. Of the 32 candidates asked back so far, more than two-thirds are white. The pool also is overwhelmingly female and skews toward candidates who are middle-aged.
Attorneys had personally interviewed 54 potential jurors over seven days by Tuesday afternoon.
While speaking to students and professors at a historically black college in April, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he isn’t a “firm believer in democracy” because “it gave us Jim Crow.”
In a lengthy profile published on The New Republic’s website Monday, reporter Julia Ioffe details Paul’s low profile visit to Simmons College of Kentucky, a historically black college in Louisville. Paul sat with students and other community members in a circle and asked attendees how the Republican Party could better reach out to African-Americans.
He talked about decriminalizing drug offenses and getting rid of the mandatory sentencing minimums that put so many young black men in jail. He talked about fixing the local school system, about not abolishing Pell grants “as long as it’s in the context of spending what you have.” To approving nods, he talked about how urban renewal had really meant “urban destruction” and about how “they tore down a lot of black businesses so people would go to white stores.” He found that this crowd, if not totally convinced, was receptive. Though he would still not give them a definitive answer on his position on the Civil Rights Act, he did say that he believed federal intervention had been justified. “I’m not a firm believer in democracy,” he explained. “It gave us Jim Crow.”
Paul’s visit to Simmons came two days after he made a more publicized appearance at Howard University in Washington, D.C., during which he said he wanted to “resurrect” the Republican Party’s history before the civil rights era.
“The story of emancipation, voting rights and citizenship, from Frederick Douglass until the modern civil rights era, is really in fact the history of the Republican Party,”Paul said. “How did the Republican Party, the party of the great emancipator, lose the trust and faith of an entire race?”
“We see horrible Jim Crow and horrible racism in the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s—it was all Democrats,” Paul continued, according to Slate. “It wasn’t Republicans. Now, did some of them switch over and become Republicans? Yes.”
Paul’s stance on civil rights came under scrutiny in 2010, when he had difficulty answering whether or not he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal’s editorial board.
“I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that,” Paul said. “I don’t like the idea of telling private business owner — I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant —but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.”
Paul distanced himself from his previous remarks during the Howard speech, claiming that he had “never wavered” on civil rights or the Civil Rights Act.
As a lawyer who examines the development of civil rights throughout Latin America it is quite remarkable to observe the explosion in the adoption of affirmative action policies in the Global South just as the United States Supreme Court is considering further limitations or extermination of affirmative action in the case of Fisher v. Texas. As a decision is expected within the next two weeks, one thing I hope the Court will consider is that research in the field of cognitive psychology reveals that we all harbor biases and that affirmative action policies assist in addressing those biases.
Part of the reason for enduring social hierarchies is that individuals rely on stereotypes to process information and have biases that they don’t know they have. These implicit biases, as psychologists call them, are picked up over a lifetime, absorbed from our culture, and work automatically to color our perceptions and influence our choices.
Over a decade of testing with six million participants of the collaborative research venture between Harvard University, University of Virginia, and the University of Washington, called “Project Implicit,” demonstrates pervasive ongoing bias against non-Whites and lingering suspicion of Blacks in particular. Some 75 percent of Whites, Latinos, and Asians show a bias for Whites over Blacks. In addition, Blacks also show a preference for Whites.
In the educational context, studies of school teachers indicate that teachers generally hold differential expectations of students from different ethnic origins, and that implicit prejudiced attitudes were responsible for these differential expectations as well as the ethnic achievement gap in their classrooms. This is because teachers who hold negative prejudiced attitudes appear more predisposed to evaluate their ethnic minority students as being less intelligent and having less promising prospects for their school careers.
The pervasive existence of implicit bias in society and its manifestation in the educational setting, strongly suggests that the selection of students can be similarly affected by unexamined stereotypes and implicit biases. Bluntly stated university Admission Offices are not immune from the operation of implicit bias.
But we are not slaves to our implicit associations. The social science research indicates that biases can be overridden with concerted effort. Remaining alert to the existence of the bias and recognizing that it may intrude in an unwanted fashion into judgments and actions, can help to counter the influence of the bias. Instead of repressing one’s prejudices, if one openly acknowledges one’s biases, and directly challenges or refutes them, one can overcome them.
Affirmative action programs provide admission officers the needed space for acknowledging and addressing implicit bias. Having a race-conscious admissions policy encourages decision makers to consider the accomplishments and potential of students that their unexamined implicit bias might have otherwise overlooked. When institutionally activated, egalitarian goals undermine and inhibit stereotyping.
Furthermore, affirmative action policies also provide the needed sense of accountability with the expectation that Admission Officers may be called on to justify their aggregate decision results to others. Research finds that having a sense of accountability can decrease the influence of bias, and encourage decision makers to self-check for bias. Numerous socialpsychology studies demonstrate that fair-minded people are usually unable to detect unfairness in their decision making in the absence of aggregate data. Affirmative Action provides the systematic aggregate data to ferret out unconscious bias in admissions decisions by showing any patterns of exclusion however unintentional.
This is why Jerry Kang and Mahzarin Banaji in a California Law Review article, propose that the law of affirmative action be expanded to conceive of the program participants as “de-biasing agents” that help to diminish discrimination. This is because the research demonstrates that exposure to racial group members in non-stereotyped positions helps to decrease implicit bias routed in stereotyped perspectives. Envisioning affirmative action program participants as assisting in the fight against racial discrimination rather than as the recipients of a benefit reinforces the continuing legality of government-based affirmative action as a compelling state interest.
In short, affirmative action simply acts like a pair of corrective lenses for decision-makers for whom a long history of race-based stereotyping would otherwise influence them to unconsciously view applicants of color as presumptively less desirable. The corrective lenses of affirmative action don’t in of themselves grant applicants of color coveted positions - they simply permit applicants of color to be seen and thus considered fairly in the first place despite the continuing existence of racism in our society. As long as racism continues to impair our societal vision, affirmative action will be needed as one small corrective measure to ensure the fair consideration of all applicants.
Tanya Katerí Hernández
Professor of Law
Fordham Univ. School of Law
Author of “Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law, and the New Civil Rights Response” (Cambridge Univ. Press 2013)
Robert Zimmerman has released a book about the case against his son, George, who is standing trial for the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In it, he shares his views on “how and why” his son has been charged with murder .
“Florida v. Zimmerman: Uncovering the Malicious Prosecution of my Son, George” was released as an e-book Wednesday. The description reads simply: “This book describes how and why my son, George Zimmerman, has been charged with the crime of murder.”
Racism has been an overarching issue since Martin, who was unarmed, was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012. Many believe Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, targeted the teen that night in Sanford, Fla., because of Martin’s race. Zimmerman’s father, however, disagrees with the portrait that has been painted of his son.
“As an adult, George continued to judge everyone as individuals, as he does today,” Zimmerman writes in the prologue. “Many of George’s closest and most trusted friends are African American. Although the FBI interviewed dozens of George’s friends, neighbors, co-workers, and acquaintances, there is a tremendous amount of evidence that George is absolutely not a racist in any sense of the word.”
In fact, he thinks the racism is coming from elsewhere.
In the chapter, “Who Are The True Racists,” according to Think Progress, Zimmerman uses words like “pathetic,” “self-serving” and “disgrace” when describing the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP and Martin’s funeral director, among others. He says he believes they are promoting a racist agenda in the United States and around the Martin case.
He also says that because U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder chose to investigate whether Martin’s killing violated federal civil rights laws, the FBI didn’t have “adequate resources to investigate clearly identified potential terrorist [sic] in the Boston area.” Now, “tragically, we have suffered the consequences of Mr. Holder’s politically motivated decisions,” he wrote, according to Think Progress.
Reviews of the book online thus far are divided. Commentators’ critiques have ranged from praise from those who believe he is shedding new light on the case, to dismissive, calling it a conspiracy theory that blames everyone but the gunman, to angry.
The first week of jury selection ended Friday and 29 potential jurors have completed the initial round of questioning, according to the Associated Press. Of those 29, 19 are white; six are black; two are Hispanic; one is Asian-American; and one describes himself as mixed race.
Zimmerman, who is facing trial for second-degree murder, is pleading not guilty.